A Very Present Help

It is that time of year again. Christmas carols are on the radio, at your workplace, in the stores, and every where you go. You may love them or hate them, but you can’t get away from them.

One of those songs that has me thinking is the song called ‘O Come Immanuel’. Like many Christmas songs, you do not have to know what it means to know the words. What does the word ‘Immanuel’ mean?

When the angel appeared to Joseph he explained that Jesus would be called ‘Immanuel’ and that it means ‘God with us’.

This is a great word to meditate on as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus! Jesus is the ultimate sign that God loves us. His birth is the ultimate sign that God is not just watching from a distance. He cares so much that He had to be right here with us.

This is not just a nice comforting thought, but an actual reality. God is actually with us and that is incredibly helpful in our times of stress, discouragement, and difficulty.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

In times of trouble we may not feel like God is with us, but He is. His Word tells us that He is very present in those times. When you do not feel like God is with you, remember that He is Immanuel.

Have you ever had someone offer to help you, but when they helped it was only halfheartedly? God is not like that. God greatly desires to provide real and significant help for you. He cares about your soul, your family, your job, and everything else too.

The psalmist tells us that God is there to help us, but there is something that we have to do to receive the help. We must be still.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

God will do the heavy lifting when we stop and trust in Him. This idea goes against our normal way of thinking. How can the troubles be resolved if we are still? They can be resolved because God is a very present help.

What is your trouble? Allow God to be that help that you need. Be still and trust God because He is Immanuel.

“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” Psalm 46:11

-Kim S

Run With Endurance

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

A few years ago my husband got really excited about running. Since he enjoyed it so much I thought maybe I should join him. The first day out I got my running shoes on and my workout clothes and I was ready to go. We stretched for a little bit and then got started. The first few minutes were easy, but I soon realized I had very little endurance. I was a mess! I couldn’t breathe, my muscled ached, and there were plenty of tears. All I wanted to do was give up. I begged my husband to go on without me but he refused and stayed right by me encouraging me and challenging me to go just a little further.

In the book of Hebrews we are encouraged to “lay aside every weight and sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” You don’t just wake up one day and have the endurance needed to run a race, it takes time. Endurance is built through struggle, perseverance and trials. Endurance requires that your mind is set upon reaching an end goal and that you will do whatever it takes to reach that goal. Our goal as believers is to live a life pleasing to the Lord so that those around us can look at our lives and see the witness of a life lived by faith.

The next few runs were similar to the first but it wasn’t long before I started to build up my endurance. I must admit, if I was running on my own I would have quit five minutes into the first run, but I wasn’t alone. I had my husband there beside me being my encourager and reminding me that the end was near. As we run the race that is talked about in Hebrews we are not called to do this in our own strength. The Lord gives us the strength to persevere and He has also given us the Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us. Not only that but we are a body of believers and God calls us to build up and support one another. If you are in need of support and encouragement call on the Lord and ask for His Spirit and call out to the body of Christ and allow them to be there for you. Or pray and ask God to show you who you can come alongside and build them up. Let’s run with endurance this race set before us!

Kim S.

What Are You Wearing?

Do you ever have one of those mornings when you can’t seem to find anything to wear? You try on a pair of jeans and they are too snug, or the top you try on is unflattering. The closet is full but nothing seems to fit right. We place importance on the way we look. We want to leave a good impression, and in a lot of ways the way we dress is a reflection of who we are or how we want to be perceived.

As godly women there is some attire that God wants us to wear. Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

It says here that we are to clothe ourselves with Compassion, Kindness, Humility, Gentleness and Patience. God is telling us in these verses that these are essential attributes that we should be wearing. You wouldn’t leave your house partially clothed, right? So as you prepare for your day ask God to help you put on each piece of this godly attire.

No outfit is complete without its accessories! The belt that ties this spiritual ensemble together is found in verse 14. It says “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience all need to be done in love. Without love this spiritual outfit just doesn’t work.

These attributes are a beautiful sight to the Lord. There are some outfits make you feel like a million bucks but with this spiritual attire you are priceless! You’ll definitely be best dressed in His Book.

Kim S.

Let’s Stretch

Our heavenly Father knows that we need to stretch in order to grow spiritually. So when He speaks, I find that His messages challenge me. Since His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8 NASB), I find that most frequently His messages not only go beyond my natural thought processes, but they also exceed my natural abilities. They make me feel uncomfortable because I know there’s no way I can do what God is asking in my own power.
Do you recall when God called Jeremiah to be His spokesman, the young man protested that the job would be too much for him. “I can’t speak for you!” he protested. I’m too young (Jeremiah 1:6) He was afraid to accept God’s challenging assignment.

In Jeremiah 1:7-8 the Lord replied, and said “You must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. Don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and I’ll take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Jeremiah accepted God’s challenge, stepped out in obedience, and proclaimed the words God put in his mouth. He told the people of Judah exactly what would happen to them if they didn’t repent of their sins and turn back to God: The Babylonians would destroy Jerusalem and carry them into captivity.

As a result of his message, the Jews beat Jeremiah and put him in prison, on several occasions. Although Jeremiah was timid, God gave him courage to face persecution, and was used as God’s messenger for more than forty years.
Accepting God’s challenge is often hard for me. It’s often tempting to do the opposite of what God asks simply because it would be easier. But doing the easier thing will never stretch you by forcing you to tap into your divine resources. God wants to help you to grow by allowing you to see what He can do when you admit you can’t.

Throughout the Bible we see many instances of people whom God called from unlikely places asking them to do things that were far beyond their abilities and what they felt equipped to do.

     1. Noah was asked to build an ark.
     2. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son.
     3. Esther was asked to plead the case for her people before the king.
     4. Mary was asked to become the mother of the Messiah.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul talks about his feelings of inadequacy and his experience with how God worked supernaturally through him. Each time he felt ill-equipped to take on the challenge that God was asking of him, God said “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

What is God asking you to do? Is it bigger than you, does it make you feel uncomfortable? Is He asking you to spend time with another woman and encourage growth in her life, is He asking you to evangelize, is He asking you to get up early and spend time in the Word, is He asking you to serve, whatever He’s asking you to do He’ll supply all that you need to accomplish it. Take some time today to stop and ask yourself what has God been asking me to do that requires complete dependence on Him. Then give your fears and inadequacy to the Lord and watch what he does.

Micah E.

Mirror Mirror

Once in a college class a girl got up to use the restroom. Upon returning she didn’t realize her dress was tucked in her pantyhose, and her whole backside was on display! I’m certain if she had looked in the mirror it would have revealed her dilemma and she would of corrected it. Have you ever had something in your teeth or perhaps your shirt inside out and didn’t notice? Like the story of “Sleeping Beauty”, the queen looks into the mirror and discovers she is not who she thought she was! The bible is like our mirror. When we read and study the Word of God it shows us who we are.

So why is it that while we are listening to a sermon we are thinking it is so good for someone else? Why is it so easy to see the mistakes or areas of weakness in someone else’s life? We freely and openly give our opinions of what others lack or should do, or why they are in their situation. Effortlessly we can point out their sin, yet not seeing our own. I’ve been guilty of this, have you? Let’s look into the mirror. Matthew 7:3-4 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye; and look, a plank is in your eye?” Charles Spurgeon states, “ Jesus is gentle, but He calls that man a hypocrite who fusses about small things in others and pays no attention to great matters at home in his own person” Not looking into the Word will cause us to be blinded and not have a clear image of ourselves. Sadly, we become more tolerant with our own faults than others. Fault finding and criticizing no matter what our intentions, tends to drive wedges between us and others. Do you want others to avoid you?

The Word of God provides a mirror to our souls and by gazing into it, the shocking and sometimes very disturbing truth about ourselves is reflected. This is the 1st step to repentance and spiritual transformation.

James 1:22-24 “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the Word but doesn’t do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and after looking at himself goes away and forgets what he looks at.”

We must not just listen, but repent, then obey the Word. Jesus calls us to love. Matthew 7:2 “ For the same way you judge others, you’ll be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured you” David Guzik states,” This is a powerful motivation for us to be generous with love, forgiveness, and goodness to others. If we want more of those things from God, we should give more of them to others.”

Zelda D

Slow Down

We live in a fast-paced world and it seems that simplifying our lives has never been more complicated! Doesn’t it seem like there is always something to do and not enough hours in your day to accomplish it? Are we able to answer these questions with a positive response? Do I have peace when functioning in my day-to-day activities? Do I feel rested when my alarm goes off in the morning? Can I make it through the day without wanting to take a nap?

I have found two reasons in the scriptures for the Sabbath. The first one is found in Genesis 2:2 where we’re told that God finished creation in six days and then He rested on the seventh day. God established a pattern of work and rest, which is a model for believers and it shows us that rest is appropriate and right. Why did God rest? He accomplished His objective. We too, must recognize a limit to our work… to stop, allow the body, mind, and spirit to recognize their limitations.

The second reason the Sabbath was given is often ignored. God said to Israel to remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15) They were to rest in order to reflect on God’s ability to work beyond the labors they had already completed.

At the heart of the Sabbath is the word rest. The Sabbath is intended for people, that they may learn to rest. It is intended to prevent burnout—to recover from too much pressure and catch up with yourself; to gather yourself together so you are able to handle the work you must do.

Jesus showed us the importance of rest when He sat wearily beside a well after a long walk (John 4:6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.) and when He slept in the back of a boat with His head on a pillow (Mark 4:38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”). He also rested when He and His disciples got away from the crowds (Mark 6:31,32 And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.)

If the Lord rested from the work of creation and the work of His ministry, we need to rest from our work as well because our times of rest refresh us for our times of service. Schedule yourself some “slow down” time this week and get some rest.

Patti S.

Have You Discovered It?

Have you ever felt anxious about circumstances in your life? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines anxious as “afraid or nervous especially about what may happen: feeling anxiety: causing or showing fear or nervousness: wanting or eager to do or have something very much especially because of fear or nervousness.”

I get anxious about finances – always feeling there is never enough. I find myself being anxious about my health and the health of my family.  Sometimes to a point that I diagnosis everyone’s symptoms into a catastrophic illness and become overbearing by telling them to immediately seek medical attention. I become anxious when my house doesn’t look the way I want it to. So too Martha was anxious when she was having a big dinner party for Jesus.

In Luke 10:40(NLT) it says “But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

I can imagine Martha going to kitchen making sure the food was being prepared correctly. She was probably giving orders to the servants to clean the house, set the table to provide the appropriate amount of washbasins for the guests; so much hustle and bustle with the anticipation of anything that might go wrong. Yet in verse 39, her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to his teaching. Yup, I can envision Martha being irritated with her sister as she is worried about all the details feeling all alone with no help from her sister.

When we are anxious about the circumstances in our lives we have no peace and the focus is on the situation. Just as Martha said to Jesus “doesn’t it seem unfair to you …, I can so easily replace that sentence with my own statement “doesn’t it seem unfair to you that I don’t have enough money? What are some statements that you have said? Yet Jesus said to Martha in verse 41-42 “But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it and I won’t take it away from her.” You see Mary sat at his feet listening to Him. Philippians 4:6 says “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Mary wasn’t affected by all the hustle and bustle, she wasn’t anxious because she discovered it. So my question to myself, is have I discovered it? Have you discovered it?

Elsa D.

Go Get The Book

You do not have to know me very long to know that I am a grandmother and that I love my grandchildren very much (what grandmother doesn’t?). They bring me endless joy. I always have the latest story about what they just did or said. Like this evening, the kids spend the day with me and at the end of the day I asked my grandson if he would like me to tell him a story. He said that he would like to hear the three little pigs so I started to tell it the best I could from my memory. He stopped me often to point out errors that I had made in the story. We were both amused by my mistakes, but he also wanted to make sure that I got the story right. When the story was about two-thirds of the way complete and I had just made another error, my grandson smiled and asked me if I would just go get the book. This made us both laugh.

After my grandson went home, I thought about the message from Sunday and from my reading that day. The message on Sunday was titled: “Jesus Has the Right”. One of the points was that Jesus has the right to teach me what I already know. Jesus does not just teach me information. Jesus wants me to be different. The world has it all wrong and we are bombarded with wrong teaching all of the time. God’s Word corrects our wrong perspectives. My reading this morning was Mark chapter 5 about the demon possessed man that lived in the cemetery. Jesus healed him. The story spread and the people came. “A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, but they were frightened when they saw the man who had been demon possessed, for he was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane…and the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.” (Mark 5: 16, 17). This is one of the ways that the world response to Jesus. The crowd had it all wrong. They should not have been fearful and they definitely should not have begged Jesus to leave.

As my grandson would say, we need to go get the Book. This world is going to lie to us and we lie to ourselves too. We need to prayerfully read, to ask Jesus to teach us and to change us. The good news is that our gracious and merciful Father will do that if we allow Him. Psalm 119:7 says, “As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should!” (NLT).

God bless,

Jess

Love Never Fails

Today is the day that we celebrate love. We buy candy, flowers, cards and maybe plan to go to a fancy dinner. It’s pretty much guaranteed that everywhere you go today you will see tons of couples and maybe a little too much PDA.  I have to admit I’m not a big Valentines Day celebrator, my husband and I usually do something special during the month of February but just not on Valentines Day (mostly because I don’t like the crowds). Even if you aren’t a fan of the holiday it’s still  fun to celebrate those that we love. It’s important to appreciate the people in our lives and sometimes we need the reminder of that.

Beyond all the pink hearts and roses take time today to consider true love. The greatest love, the kind of love that only Jesus can give. 1 John 4:10-11, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Jesus laid down His life for us, He proved His love for us by dying on the cross so that we might have forgiveness for our sins and have eternal life with Him. What an amazing gift, it’s sweeter than any chocolate, more costly than any jewelry and more beautiful than any rose could ever be. His Love never fails. Verse 11 says “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” as believers we have received the greatest love. God desires that we not only be filled with His love but that we would pour it out on all those around us.

Share God’s love with someone today. Go out of your way to be kind to those that you come in contact with. It’s not easy and our flesh gets in the way many times, but we are blessed when we are obedient to God’s Word.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

-Kim S.

Offenses Will Come

Have you ever been offended by a Christian brother or sister and had a hard time letting it go? You pray about it and try to give it to the Lord, yet you find yourself dwelling on it and experiencing unwanted emotions of hurt, anger and resentment. This happens to every one of us, but it’s what we choose to do about it that makes the difference between a loving heart and a bitter heart. So, what should our attitude and actions be when we are offended by a fellow believer: righteous indignation, retribution, denying our feelings and nobly looking past the offense? Well, Matthew 18:15-17 explains a pattern of conduct to follow when we find ourselves in this situation.

In the preceding verses Jesus teaches us the importance of being humble followed by a strong admonition not to give offense. These two points are the foundation we need to build on when we begin to apply the first step – “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” The goal of confrontation must be restoration. A humble heart and an approach that does not bring offense are required. If we desire to simply “set the record straight” or to make the other person aware of their shortcomings we are off target. We are reminded by Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth in love. Jon Courson said it this way, “Love without truth is hypocrisy. But truth without love is brutality.” The scripture tells us to “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” This means without first complaining or gossiping about it to others. But, what does “sins against you” mean? Are we to confront our brothers and sisters every time we feel offended? I don’t think so. I believe we need to examine our hearts closely because sometimes the entire problem is contained therein. King David said it like this, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139:23-24)

We need to be prayerful about how to handle each situation and develop a balance between confrontation and bearing with one another. Sometimes we just need to ask God to help us see the other person through His eyes, to help us extend His grace to them and to use the circumstances to grow the Fruits of the Spirit in us.

The next time you’re faced with this situation, and there will be a next time, remember you have a choice you can ask God to help you confront in love for the purpose of restoration or you can ask God to help you grow in patience, longsuffering, kindness and gentleness. There is a third option – you can gossip, retaliate and harbor bitterness. I don’t recommend the last option though.

-Jacque B.